Performance and Reliability of Metallic Materials for Nuclear Fission Power Generation

Lead Research Organisation: Open University
Department Name: Engineering & Innovation


In this research programme we will address fundamental research challenges for the long-term performance and stability of materials for nuclear fission power plant. The lifetime of power plant components is limited because of limits in their endurance under exposure to high temperatures, high loads, radiation, and the effects of cycling of load and temperature; there are issues related to corrosion that are exacerbated by applied stresses and residual stresses in materials; and the high neutron radiation flux in the core of the reactor generates progressive damage that must be understood if we are to be able to design new materials for future reactor systems with improved lifetimes and efficient use of nuclear fuel. This research programme will underpin the development of the nuclear fission power generation systems of the future.Metallic systems used in nuclear reactors range from pressure vessel steels to fuel cladding tubes to stainless steels used in the heat exchangers. The particular operating conditions for each component are unique and require carefully tailored materials properties. There are significant challenges in enhancing materials performance for operations at higher temperatures for longer lifetimes, and we have to improve our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which materials degrade and by which damage develops in nuclear reactors and their associated high-temperature plant.We will address fundamental research problems in improving the long-term performance of materials for nuclear plant exposed to service conditions of high temperatures, high neutron radiation fluences and complex load histories. The critical research challenges that arise for materials performance under these conditions are Materials Stability and Degradation and State Monitoring of Materials . We propose to address them through a broad collaborative programme incorporating the leading UK university groups and our wide network of external partners.The research programme is targeted mainly at the theme of Long term materials behaviour , but with a significant contribution in the area of fuel cladding materials . We have integrated work in these two areas because there is significant commonality in the research methodology (experimental and modelling) required for the study of the different metallic systems and because of our experience of the significant benefits that flow from maintaining close relationships with other nuclear research programmes in partner institutions.From our previous track record, we confidently expect a high degree of gearing as the work of the new consortium will complement and bring together our existing individual programmes, funded by industry and the Research Councils. In addition to delivering new research outputs and a cohort of trained researchers, this will place us in a strong position to respond effectively and in a coordinated manner to future funding opportunities from industry, the EU and the wider international nuclear community.

Planned Impact

This proposal will provide significant impact for the nuclear materials research sector, academic and industrial, through: - a coherent programme of research into the performance and reliability of nuclear materials; - the provision of a trained body of new researchers at a time of dramatic growth for the UK nuclear sector; - the strengthening and development of effective collaborations between University and industrial partners, including direct transfer of technical skills; - opportunities for leveraging additional funding for fission research, especially from the EU and other sources external to the UK. The applicant team have exceptionally strong collaborative links, and a proven track record of excellence in nuclear materials. Our proposed programme will create a new UK network that expands on the Materials work package of the original KNOO programme in this area through inclusion of (a) new University groups and (b) explicit working collaborations with a wider range of key industrial partners. The integration of the research within the consortium spans research topics, methods and types of material. The partners will work together collaboratively to bring maximum impact from the expertise and capability that is embedded in the consortium. The programme will also create a platform for hugely expanding our collaboration with international partners - opening up access to facilities not available in the UK and to industrial and academic expertise of significant value for the wider UK community. The impact that will be delivered therefore goes beyond the traditional knowledge generation and publication generation, to an improvement in the profile, capability and capacity of the UK's nuclear materials research effort. Therefore an important contribution to impact for the consortium will be in contributing to the restoration of the international profile of the UK as a research leader in the development of nuclear power technologies and the necessary underpinning science. Only by succeeding in this challenge will we be invited to work in partnership with groups in France, the USA and India where the research infrastructure has been sustained for many decades or where there is new funding for activity in nuclear science and technology. Furthermore, as the new nuclear build programme accelerates, and there is increasing investment in this field in Europe and the UK, it is extremely important that the UK is able to demonstrate a mature research capability so that new-build companies will invest confidently in a UK research base rather than relying on offshore sites for research and skills development.
Description 1. Magnetic methods may be deployed to study the evolution of irradiation damage in metallic materials. The results can be affected by the process history of the material, so may be dependent, for example, in which directions measurements are made.

2. In the manufacture of oxide-dispersion strengthened steels for nuclear power applications, the mechanical processing used effectively dissolves the oxides into the steel matrix.

3. Ion implantation methods can be used as a proxy for irradiation damage in the study of ODS steels.
Exploitation Route The results are of value in future work on the design of radiation-resistance materials for nuclear power applications.
Sectors Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

Description N/A
Amount £2,000,000 (GBP)
Organisation Lloyd's Register Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2014 
End 12/2018
Description Collaboration on irradiation effect studies and NDT with The Centre for Energy Research (EKI-KFKI) of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary 
Organisation Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA)
Department Centre for Energy Research
Country Hungary 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Hungarian Academy of Sciences KFKI Energy Research Institute (EKI) has a Material Department. This department is collaborating with the material engineering group, involving on research related to PROMINENT project. The EKI has a research reactor to irradiate the material as well testing facilities. Our collaboration will use their capabilities to irradiated the material produced by the OU. The OU is offered to use the the dry irradiation rig called BAGIRA (Budapest Advanced Gas-cooled Irradiation Rig Assembly) is operational in one of the vertical channels since 1998. It is used to irradiate nuclear reactor vessel and fusion equipment materials in order to study and evaluate irradiation ageing. Recently, the rig was redesigned for in-pile fatigue and creep, the structure was strengthened to perform irradiations up to 600ºC and the OU team can use this instrument to investigate its ODS material. The collaboration includes the expertise exchange and skills exchange between the teams of the two institutions. As part of the collaboration the OU team has been using a magnetic NDT equipment for possible use on evaluation of material degradation and stress analysis belonged to EKI. The contributions are on the form of workload of the researchers involved in it, as well the facilities of EKI/Hungary. Moreover through the EKI loans of the its NDT equipment to the OU team.
Start Year 2010
Description Investigation on ODS fabrication through ball milling 
Organisation University of Oxford
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Investigation on the production of the ODS powder through ball milling. Two type of base alloy composition, different milling parameters and disperse oxides are investigated in this common work. The material is provided by the OU team, Oxford team does the ball milling according common defined parameters and the resulted material is investigated by both groups, e.g. the ISIS experiments were done with participants of the two teams the results analysed and discussed in meeting with all participants The contributions are workload of the researchers involved, material acquired for PROMINENT project reseach and facilities of the two univeristies.
Start Year 2011
Description Sino-UK Research Project on high temperature studies of ODS materials 
Organisation University of Science and Technology of China USTC
Country China 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution The project is collaboration between the School of Material Science and Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing (USTB), China, via Professor Zhangjian Zhou and the Materials Engineering Group, The Open University, United Kingdom, via Dr Soraia Pirfo Barroso. The aim is to perform a common research, work together to knowledge progress, complement each other?s work, share research results and achieve a greater output than possible at each institution separately on the field of high-temperature material fabrication and performance for advanced reactor. The material for this project is the so called oxide dispersion-strengthened (ODS) steels. Finally, we will work to produce results which will be pushing the knowledge boundaries of this research topic and generate common publications on scientific peer-reviewed journals. The estimated contribution is by workload allocation of the involved researchers and the testing facilities on the OU. On the Chinese side the material fabrication and related results, as well workload of the involved researchers.
Start Year 2012
Description Undergraduate traineeship 
Organisation State University of Santa Cruz
Country Brazil 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution An undergraduate student is involved on research and learning activities within the OU, involving the PROMINENT project actions financed by the National Commission for Research Development (CNPQ) organisation of the Brazilian Government.
Start Year 2012